UNITE HERE: Coalition of Watchdogs and Labor Groups Call on SBA to Release Pandemic Relief Data

A coalition of government watchdogs and labor groups appealed to the Small Business Administration (SBA) in an open letter to release data about forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The government has already forgiven $194 billion in PPP loans, but has not revealed which loans were forgiven – and whether those recipients kept workers on the payroll.

The PPP was created to allow companies hit by the pandemic to maintain their workforces. However, the public is in the dark about whether companies used PPP funds to pay employees. For example, in May 2020 an affiliate of private equity firm Walton Street Capital received a $4.1 million PPP loan for the Minneapolis Hilton. The loan amount was based on a pre-pandemic payroll of 482 employees. But in December 2020, the hotel General Manager told a local TV reporter the hotel was down to just 45 employees. And in February 2021, he claimed the hotel employed only 28 workers.

“We want to know whether the hotels that took PPP rehired more workers compared to those that didn’t, and whether the federal government has forgiven the loans of those did not,” said D. Taylor, President of hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE. “The hotel industry is sitting on billions in cash but we’re still waiting for them to bring workers back.”

The open letter argued that data about PPP forgiveness was essential to determining whether businesses that received PPP funds rehired or retained workers. The signatories also asked SBA to set up a reporting mechanism for the employees of companies that received PPP, but were not rehired or retained.

“The new administration has shown a greater openness to transparency, and now has an opportunity to honor that while empowering workers,” said Mellissa Chang of Good Jobs First, a government watchdog. “The public deserves to know whether bad actors got their loans forgiven, even when they declined to bring back many of their workers.”

“The Minneapolis Hilton is far from the only employer that we want to know about,” said Aliya Sabharwal of the Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund. “If the SBA continues to refuse to share this crucial data, it increases the danger that future relief will flow in similar ways – with money intended for workers going to the wealthy and well-connected.”

Signatories to the letter included UNITE HERE, Public Citizen, Good Jobs First, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, Project on Government Oversight, Revolving Door Project, U.S. PIRG, Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Government Accountability Project, American Oversight, and Transparency International - U.S. Office.


Jon Sussman, UNITE HERE

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